Someone asked me: what should I do if I have an idea for a startup, but there’s already a well funded startup with a similar idea?

There appears to be a belief that if a company is “well-funded” then they must be successful, and you won’t be.

But it just isn’t true!

Ideas are worthless. The value is in the execution. Execute well and you can win. Regardless of the competition.

Always remember that no amount of VC/Angel/Strategic/F&F/pocket/inheritance money can guarantee the quality of the execution. That’s up to YOU and YOUR TEAM.

Don’t believe me? Take some time to read through these articles:

108 Of The Biggest, Costliest Startup Failures Of All Time

204 Startup Failure Post-Mortems

And then DO IT.

The story of Alibaba as told by Jack Ma is amazing!

It was in Seattle where Ma said his friend encouraged him to try searching the Internet for the first time. Initially, he hesitated since he knew that computers were expensive, and if he broke it, he wouldn’t be able to afford to replace it.

“He said ‘just search it,’ so I searched the first word ‘beer,” he said. “I don’t know why, but maybe because it was easy to spell? I see beers from Germany, U.S.A. and Japan, but I don’t see any from China, so I searched for the second word ‘China,’ and there was nothing.”

So, he recalls that they made a small, “ugly-looking” page, and three hours after launching it, “I got a phone call from my friend who said, “Jack, you have five emails, and I said ‘What is email?”

Based on the number of responses, he said, “This is something interesting, so we should do it.”

Starting from this “ugly-looking” page, the business grew into Alibaba where Jack Ma recently hosted the largest IPO ever at $25 billion.

Why didn’t I start it?

I think there is one big reason … I don’t REALLY know how to notice what’s not there!

When I type some words into a search engine and get no results, I type different words until I get results.  And then I settle for whatever I eventually find.

Jack Ma had no preconceptions of what was normal or possible, or even what he was doing. He typed some words into the search engine, got no results, noticed a gap, and then he and his friend built something to fill it.  Even if it was ugly.

He created a site to give him (and others like him) the results he wanted … not the ones he had to settle for.

I can learn a lot from that approach.

So can you.

I used to describe myself as a DOER. I got stuff done. And I liked getting stuff done.

I used to be suspicious of TRY. To me, TRY was what you said when you were being nice but didn’t really intend to make it happen. For all intents and purposes, TRYing was synonymous with LYing!

When a project in my past went off the rails – overtime, over-budget – and the leaders told me quite sincerely that they were going to try again – I lost it.

I ranted. I preached. I talked loudly. I sent emails. I fumed.

I didn’t want those leaders to TRY … I wanted them to DO! Money was on the line. Jobs were on the line. I wanted them to channel Nike and “Just DO It!”

It wasn’t until a long time later when I read an article about Jadav “Molai” Payeng that I began to see my error.

In 1979, there was a barren sandbar created by flooding near his home in Assam, India. The forest department told him that nothing would grow there, except maybe bamboo.

He wanted a forest, so he took on the challenge, and tried. Every morning he would stop and stick a bamboo shoot in the ground, and drop a few red ants that he had gathered from home.

He found the work painful, but he did it. There was nobody to help. Nobody was interested.

Fast forward 30+ years and Payeng has singlehandedly planted a 1,360-acre forest containing variety of flora and fauna, now including endangered animals like the one-horned rhino and Royal Bengal tiger.

This story showed me that my problem wasn’t the word TRY. After all, Payeng succeeded by TRYing.

It was the attitude. When those leaders in my past said they would TRY, they really meant they would just go through the motions again, ticking boxes, dotting I’s, crossing T’s. But they didn’t really believe.

Anyone with that attitude, regardless of the word, is indeed LYing.

I now believe that it is trying the same thing over and over and expecting a different result that is LYing (some say this is also the definition of insanity).

On the other hand, trying, and being willing to try harder, and being willing to try differently, and being willing to persevere, is never lying in my book.

I now see myself as a trier because I realize that was an essential part of my past focus. It is only because I tried hard and tried often and tried everything I could think of and everything anyone I could find to ask thought of is the real reason I got stuff done.

As I now see it, DO is canned and bounded. In order to DO, I must already know how. I just need to put my blinders on and drive forward to the end.

On the other hand, TRY is open ended. It is liquid and adaptable. It doesn’t assume anything.

The key to TRYing is to get in the arena and get on with it.

It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better.

The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly … who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly.

Theodore Roosevelt

The credit belongs to the ones in the ring trying.

This year … I resolve … to TRY!